Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

O/MODƏRNT: Monteverdi in Historical Counterpoint

O/MODƏRNT is Swedish for ‘un/modern’. It is also the name of the festival — curated by artistic director Hugo Ticciati and held annually since 2011 at the Ulriksdal’s Palace Theatre, Confidencen — which aims to look back and celebrate the past ‘by exploring the relationships between the work of old composers and the artistic and intellectual creations of modern culture’.

Late Schumann in context - Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler, London

Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler at the Wigmore Hall, London, an intriguing recital on many levels. Goerne programmes are always imaginative, bringing out new perspectives, enhancing our appreciation of the depth and intelligence that makes Lieder such a rewarding experience. Menahem Pressler is extremely experienced as a soloist and chamber musician, but hasn't really ventured into song to the extent that other pianists, like Brendel, Eschenbach or Richter, for starters. He's not the first name that springs to mind as Lieder accompanist. Therein lay the pleasure !

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Cast of Show Boat, Lyric Opera of Chicago [Photo by Robert Kusel courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
19 Apr 2012

Show Boat at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago has begun with the current season’s production of Show Boat a series of musicals of the American theater to be featured in coming years.

Jerome Kern: Show Boat

Click here for cast and production information.

Above: Cast of Show Boat, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Photos by Robert Kusel courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Francesca Zambello applied her directorial talents to the current production and allows Show Boat to speak for itself as a straightforward and entertaining piece of theatrical tradition. Featured cast members include Ashley Brown as Magnolia Hawks, Nathan Gunn as Gaylord Ravenal, Alyson Cambridge as Julie, Angela Renée Simpson as Queenie, Morris Robinson as Joe, Ross Lehmann as Captain Hawks, Cindy Gold as Parthy Ann Hawks, and Ericka Mac as Ellie May Chipley. John DeMain conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

After the overture settled from a brassy start into familiar melodic lines, DeMain highlighted rhythmic shifts to good effect. The “Cotton Blossom” song, named for the riverboat with its staged entertainment, was performed with choral energy yet individual phrases could profit from greater emphasis on diction. The argument between the engineer Pete and the actor Steve, which motivates so much of the subsequent conflict, is convincingly staged. Others members of the ship’s community react immediately to Steve’s dismissal and to the isolation of his wife Julie LaVerne. In the role of the undertalented Ellie May, Ms. Mac sings intentionally off-key and overcompensates charmingly in her attempts to portray an ambitious yet ill-trained replacement for Julie in the ship’s roster of actors.

The arrival of Gaylord Ravenal introduces the second dramatic and emotional twist that will have an effect on the remainder of the piece. It is a role that suits Mr. Gunn’s voice and dramatic talents well. In his first song, “Who cares if my Boat Goes Upstream?” Gunn’s sense of line adds to the carefree swagger of Ravenal’s personality. Here and elsewhere the orchestra could serve the soloist better if taken less forte in its enthusiastic accompaniment. The pivotal duet with Magnolia, “Make Believe,” was performed touchingly by Ms. Brown and Mr. Gunn, as the impression of a naïve yet convincing affection was kindled. When left to consider her thoughts, Magnolia asks Joe the husband of Queenie whether this attraction could be a signal of love. As sung by Mr. Robinson, the response of Joe, “Ol’ Man River,” is one of the highlights of the production. Robinson portrays Joe with dramatic physicality and with fully assured vocal technique. His sonorous bass is rich and full in even the lowest pitches, and his legato matches the rolling pull of the river. When Robinson repeats the song subsequently with male chorus, the effect is equally striking. Magnolia’s second confidante Julie hears next of the budding romance. After the trusting exchange with Magnolia, Ms. Cambridge sang the well-known comment on love, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.” Cambridge showed here a firm sense of musical line as it supported the text yet the enunciation of lyrics was overly careful. After Ravenal’s gambling song, performed with spirited determination by Gunn, the remainder of Act I alternates between staffing the showboat’s entertainment and the developing romance of the protagonists.

Show_Boat_Chicago_02.png

Because of Mississippi racial laws the marriage of Julie and Pete is questioned, a complication leading to her dismissal as lead in the musical show. Captain Hawks decides that his daughter Magnolia will substitute since she is familiar with the numbers from having attended rehearsals. Almost simultaneously Ellie May performs with female chorus the comment, “Life on the Wicked Stage.” Ms. Mac assured that the number was an exhilarating showstopper with all pitches at this point sung correctly. The love between Magnolia and Ravenal blooms, just as they rehearse the fictional parts of lovers on the stage. Brown and Gunn gave a convincing rendition of “You are Love” as they make plans for their own wedding in keeping with the stage-show’s narrative. As Act I ends, stories about Ravenal’s past do not deter Captain Hawks from supporting the marriage yet his wife Parthy’s reaction hints at domestic difficulties in Act II.

In the second act as arranged for this production the chronological sequence unfolded smoothly. The individual scenes cover a span of several decades in the domestic and emotional lives of Magnolia and Ravenal. Only the first scene taking place at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago gave any indication of the idyllic marriage promised by the lyrical exchange in the first act. The birth of a daughter hardly deters Ravenal from his continued gambling. Indeed one of the most emotionally moving scenes in Act II is Gunn’s departure from his daughter staged in the convent school. The reprise of “Make Believe” in this scene recalls earlier happiness and looks wistfully toward a future reconciliation. For her part Ms. Brown’s portrayal of Magnolia as an independent performer after having been left by Ravenal was achieved with both vocal and dramatic skill. Her voice matured noticeably as she sang “After the Ball,” and sheer confidence could only describe her solo appearance in a Ziegfield show in New York. Since Queenie had attended these latter performances, she repeats one of Nola’s popular numbers back on the show boat. Ms. Simpson sings “Hey Feller!” with gusto and decided glee in her committed enthusiasm. The final reunion of Magnolia, Ravenal, and their daughter takes place, appropriately, where the romance began with the hope of a transformed future.

Salvatore Calomino

Show_Boat_Chicago_04.png

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):